Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Decatur Schools Referendum - Arguments For a YES Vote

There aren't many arguments in favor of voting for the May 6 Decatur Schools Referendum - but they are strong ones.

1) The kids didn't do anything wrong.  The adults were the ones who were fiscally irresponsible and overspent our ability to pay.  It seems to me that there are two intergenerational obligations - and one of those is for the community to nurture its children with at least an good education.  It is an debatable point whether Decatur is delivering on that - it surely is not providing a great education.

Still, an additional $2.5 million cutback next year does entail proposed changes that would increase class sizes.  Small, neighborhood schools and small class sizes are the only two constants in delivering quality education to children.

2) Cutbacks that include closing at least one more elementary school would not help Decatur attract the type of development we so desperately need.  Move up housing and common commercial retail is lacking.  Schools that by and large delivers a C - D caliber education (see table below) is a real hindrance in attracting those folks who will choose where to live, and where to spend according to the quality of public education available in the district.  Closing another school does not seem as if it would help improve the quality of education available in Decatur.

Decatur Central High SchoolC
Gold AcademyF
Blue AcademyC
Decatur Middle SchD
Stephen Decatur Elem SchD
Valley Mills Elementary SchD
Decatur Discovery AcademyD
West Newton Elementary SchoolB
Liberty Early Elementary SchoolC

Just looking at the average grade scores for abutting school districts in 2013 (which I calculated from the data provided by the Indiana Department of Education), where A = 4.0, B = 3.01 to 3.99, C = 2.01 to 2.99, D = 1.01 to 1.99, and F = 0.01 to 0.99:

Plainfield            3.96 (B)
Mooresville        3.61 (B)
Perry Tnsp          3.17 (B)
Wayne Tnsp       1.92 (D)
Decatur Tnsp      1.92 (D)

The rest of the school districts in Marion County got average grades for their schools of:

Franklin Tnsp         3.81 (B)
Speedway               3.45 (B)
Lawrence Tnsp       3.02 (B)
Washington Tnsp    2.99 (C)
Warren Tnsp           2.98 (C)
Beech Grove           2.86 (C)
Pike Tnsp                2.66 (C)
IPS                          1.70 (D)

 It may seem like a digression, but the lackluster school performance in Decatur is a real negative to a young couple with school aged children trying to decide where to call home.  Cutbacks would increase class size and thereby make it more difficult for teachers to be as effective as one would want them to be.

I really cannot think of any other reasons to vote YES in the May 6 referendum.  But, as I noted in the beginning, they are powerful reasons.

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